Ammonia is formed during putrefaction. Hence its detection is of no
consequence, unless analysis is undertaken immediately after death when
the body is still fresh.
Medico-Legal Points.—Poisoning by alkalies is much less frequent than
poisoning by mineral acids. A few suicidal and accidental cases have, how-
ever, occurred. In most of the accidental cases the alkalies were taken by
adults or children in mistake for beer, medicine, etc. Homicidal cases are
very rare indeed. A case62 of attempted murder by the administration of
caustic soda is recorded. A man, aged 78, and his wife, aged 76, were given
soup containing 7.99 grammes of caustic soda. After the first swallow the
couple noticed that the soup' had an unpleasant taste and smell and their
mouths began to burn. The man spat out the liquid but the woman
swallowed a teaspoonful. A dark red painful swelling on the tip and sides
of the tongue was found; the man recovered in 8, the woman after 20 days.
Cases have occurred, where a solution of caustic soda has been thrown
maliciously on the face and body of an enemy. In one case 63 cloth soaked
in caustic soda solution was rubbed on the eyes of one Rajaramv
a MufcTitar-i-am of a lady zamindar, when he was struck with acute pain,
and sat down and began to cry. As a result of throwing this corrosive
substance he lost his power of sight in one eye completely. His other eye
was saved, though it was not in a normal condition at the time. The motive
for the assault was the grudge and enmity existing between the complainant
and the accused, Gajadhar. In another case64 a man visited a brothel in
Bombay City early one morning and threw some corrosive liquid over the
face and bodice of a prostitute who was sleeping there. The liquid on
analysis proved to be a concentrated solution of caustic soda.
Caustic soda is also applied externally to the neck of an ox or a buffalo
so as to render it unfit for bearing the yoke of a plough owing to its local
corrosive action and thus causing serious loss to an agriculturist.65
Concentrated lye acts as a corrosive poison. It has been taken
accidentally by children, and has been swallowed by adults as a means of
suicide. In a few cases it has been thrown on the person of an individual
with intent to cause burns1 and serious injury. In his annual report for the
year 1947, the Chemical Examiner of the United and Central Provinces
mentions a case which occurred at Kanpur, where lye was thrown on eleven
children who were playing with a rubber ball, which went into the factory.
Poisoning by ammonia is more common than poisoning by fixed alkalies.
Accidental poisoning may occur from swallowing a strong solution of
ammonia or from inhalation of ammonia fumes escaping from broken
ammonia jars or from leaking ammonia pipes in refrigerating installations.
Owing to its strong penetrating odour anteonia is not ordinarily used for
homicidal purposes, but it is sometimes taken internally with intent to com-
mit suicide. It is thrown on the face with, a view to causing injury. It is
rarely swallowed or injected into the vagina for procuring criminal abortion.
Calcium Hydroxide (Slaked Lime), Ca(OH)2.—This is obtained by
adding water to calcium oxide (quicklime). It is a white, amorphous
powder, slightly soluble in cold water, and less soluble in hot water. It
dissolves freely in, solutions of glycerin and of sugars. It is a pharmacopoeia!
preparation, the dose being 5 to 15 grains.
62. Fazekas, Dents. Zeit. f. ges, gerickt. Me&.t 1934, XXTH, 194; MedL-Leg. md
CfimmoL Review, Oct 1934* p. 372.
63. Leader, May 28, 1925, p, 10. ,-
64. Bombay Chemical Analyser's Ajwial Report, 1928, p. 6.
65. Beng. Chem. Exam. Annual Be^ ^7, p. 16. j,